New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins: Top 5 Matchups in NFL Week 17
By Hal Bent
3. Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe and Logan Ryan vs Kenny Stills, Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker
Miami has a trio of talented wide receivers in Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker. Stills provides the deep threat, Landry can catch anything thrown anywhere near him, and Parker is the big and athletic outside receiver. The loss of tight end Jordan Cameron has hurt as he is talented and none of the back-ups scare opposing defenses.
Jarvis Landry is the best of the bunch despite being overshadowed in college by teammate and friend Odell Beckham Jr., and Landry has 85 catches for 1,060 yards. Landry had 84 receptions for 758 yards as a rookie and was selected to the Pro Bowl last year as he had 110 receptions for 1,157 yards. His yards per reception average has increased each season from 9.0 to 10.5 to 12.5 yards this season.
The emergence of Kenny Stills this season has given Landry more room to operate as the former New Orleans Saints receiver is averaging a ridiculous 18.0 yards per reception. He has touchdown catches in each of the last three games and leads the team with eight.
Stills struggled last season in his first year in Miami but has come on this year. Stills is a weapon in that he must be accounted for by at least one safety whenever he is on the field. Even when not making the catch, Stills gives the team opportunities to draw defensive pass interference penalties.
DeVante Parker is in his second season after having been Miami’s first-round draft pick in 2015. Parker had an up-and-down rookie season due to injuries but has two of his three career 100-yard receiving games against New England. In last year’s week 17 upset of the Patriots, Parker hauled in five catches for 106 yards.
After missing the first game of 2016, Parker returned with a bang catching eight passes for 106 yards in week two against the Patriots. Parker can still be inconsistent and disappear during a game, but he is long (six-foot-three) and solid (209 pounds) and is fast.
Parker should get plenty of attention from New England cornerback Eric Rowe, as Rowe is the only player in the secondary with the length to compete with Parker. If the defense is playing press coverage, he may see Logan Ryan as well since Ryan can use his strength and aggressiveness to negate length.
Malcolm Butler and Ryan will likely switch back-and-forth in coverage of Stills and Landry. Stills burnt Ryan for a 24-yard touchdown in Week two and Landry had ten receptions for 135 yards after a slow start and costly first half fumble. Butler and Ryan did not play particularly well in that game and need to continue their strong play of late.
Even without Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins’ trio of young and talented wide receivers create a match-up problem for many teams. This should be a good test for the New England secondary heading into the playoffs.